Today we begin the real meat of the sport, cross country day! The cross country consists of 33 numbered obstacles (45 total jumping efforts) across 5,840 meters of the Deodoro complex. The horses will have to cover the distance under the optimum time of 10 minutes, 15 seconds, or they will incur time penalties, 0.4 added to their score for each second they are over. For a full preview of the course, check out our course preview here. For full information on each of the pairs, check out Jenni’s Ultimate Guide.
Pierre Michelet from France is the course designer for Rio. Prolific particularly in Europe, Michelet most often designs courses in France, for Fontainebleau, Saumur and Pau, and is also known for his testing World Equestrian Games course in Caen, France in 2014.
The riders will be facing a typical Pierre Michelet course, full of angles, skinnies and corners, which has already been described as a proper four-star course by multiple riders. Countries who have sent less experienced three-star horses will have their work cut out for them today.
The riders listed below are the quickest 20 in the competition, ranked from quickest to slowest, using clear runs over the Olympic qualifying period. Although almost all of the horses in the Olympic field tend towards clear rounds more often than not, there will be plenty of stops tomorrow to shake things up, including some of those listed below. The riders below stand to make up the largest ground in the standings if they run clear.
Ingrid Klimke (GER) and Horseware Hale Bob: This pair hasn’t had a single cross country penalty in the entire Olympic qualifying period, and with five of their seven runs completed inside the optimum time, they also share the lowest average of time penalties of anyone in the competition with Karin Donckers.
Their slowest time came when they were 22 seconds over the time at a rain-soaked, muddy European Championship track at Blair Castle last fall, where they were still faster than the majority of the competitors who finished. While they may not necessarily be the fastest time of the day, there’s a good chance they’ll still be on their dressage score by tonight.
Ride Time: 1:35 p.m. EST
Karin Donckers (BEL) and Fletcha van’t Verahof: A stop isn’t totally out of the realm of possibility for this pair, as demonstrated by a bit of a rough patch they had last summer and fall at Aachen and the European Championships. However, clear runs are the norm for these two and when they are clear, they are also fast. In their five clear runs, Karin and Fletcha van’t Verahof equal Ingrid Klimke’s time penalty average.
Ride Time: 12:45 p.m. EST
Sandra Auffarth (GER) and Opgun Louvo: These two aren’t the reigning World Equestrian Champions for nothing, and although Opgun Louvo has been sparsely run in the past two years, he’s made his runs count. In four cross country runs, he completed three of them double clear, only accumulating time at the aforementioned muddy European Championships. This horse is a good bet to go clear and under the time.
Ride Time: 9:36 a.m. EST
Clark Montgomery (USA) and Loughan Glen: This big gelding may not strike you as one of the quickest horses in the field, but he’s made a mark in the past two years, picking up run after run that are either double clear or within five seconds of optimum time. His slowest time in the Olympic qualifying period came at Chatsworth, a notoriously difficult venue to make time, and where he was still faster than a large portion of the competition. This is a pair who have a lot of practice in pushing the pace.
Ride Time: 11:02 a.m. EST
Michael Jung (GER) and La Biosthetique Sam: Michael Jung is another who generally pushes his partner Sam close to the time every time, but is usually a few seconds over. Having said that, this pair is well known for making the time on CCI4* courses and have accumulated a total of three seconds over the optimum time in all of the seven four-star runs they have. They’ll be under or very, very close to the optimum time.
Ride Time: 10:53 a.m. EST
Pippa Funnell (GBR) and Billy the Biz: This horse hasn’t had the cleanest record, running into some trouble at multiple events last fall. Still, they more often run clear than not, and have yet to have any trouble in 2016. When they run clear, these two are another pair who generally come in within 10 seconds or less of the optimum time. However, this will be the first time that the horse has attempted a four-star cross country, although Pippa is an experienced four-star competitor.
Ride Time: 12:05 p.m. EST
Pietro Roman (ITA) and Barraduff: These two earned their position on the Italian team due to a strong cross country record over the past two years. Although they have yet to run a four-star, they have a strong and extensive three-star record, including a double clear run over Pierre Michelet’s Saumur course in 2014. These two have only once made the optimum in the Olympic qualifying period, but are usually quite close to it.
Ride Time: 11:51 a.m. EST
Astier Nicolas (FRA) and Piaf de B’Neville: Astier and Piaf de B’Neville have really burst into the limelight in the past 12 months, using double clear runs over the Pierre Michelet courses at Saumur and Pau last year to catapult themselves into second and first at those events, respectively. While those are their only two double clear runs in the past 18 months, they are the two that matter, giving them valuable experience for the course ahead of them.
Ride Time: 9:05 a.m. EST
Pawel Spisak (POL) and Banderas: Pawel and Banderas earned an individual slot in Rio thanks to their strong season in late 2015, where they strung together three double clear runs in a row. They haven’t quite managed the same form this year with a couple of stops peppering their record, but a recent slow but clear run at Strzegom may have helped them back on form. This will be their first attempt at a four-star course.
Ride Time: 12:50 p.m. EST
Shane Rose (AUS) and CP Qualified: Shane Rose and CP Qualified are based down under, boasting a strong cross country record in their native region by being within 10 seconds of optimum time in five of seven runs. Interestingly, they have yet to make optimum time since the Olympic qualifying period began, but with four-star experience and a propensity for pushing the pace, they’ll be a good bet to do the same here.
Ride Time: 1:12 p.m. EST
Jonelle Price (NZL) and Faerie Dianimo: This mare is a dynamo on cross country, with a clean record and three of six runs during the Olympic qualifying period under the time. Last year this pair was either double clear or less than 10 seconds under the time but they’ve slowed a little this spring, racking up nearly 30 seconds worth of time penalties at Chatsworth. They’ll be pushing the pace this weekend though, so a double clear wouldn’t be a surprise.
Ride Time: 1:30 p.m. EST
Felix Vogg (SUI) and Onfire: This Swiss pair do have the occasional stop on their record, including the last time out at the Luhmühlen CIC3*. They began 2015 with a string of double clear runs but have lost a bit of steam, finishing all of their 2016 runs with around thirty seconds of time penalties. Onfire was Felix Vogg’s mount for the World Equestrian Games, so as a pair they have experience over Pierre Michelet’s championship level courses.
Ride Time: 11:11 a.m. EST
Elmo Jankari (FIN) and Duchess Desiree: These two are extremely strong at the three-star level, with very few blips across the board. In clear runs, they generally run 10 seconds or less over optimum time, so a good run will mean a big move up the leaderboard. Elmo has retired Duchess Desiree in both of their four-star attempts, once at the 2014 WEG and once at Luhmühlen in 2015.
Ride Time: 11:24 a.m. EST
Boyd Martin (USA) and Blackfoot Mystery: Up until Great Meadow last month, this pair had a squeaky clean record, including a solid run at Red’s first four-star at Rolex Kentucky. Although they’ve only made the time once, they are generally within 20 seconds of the optimum time. Boyd will have his work cut out for him today, but a clear round is more probable than not.
Ride Time: 9:45 a.m. EST
Clarke Johnstone (NZL) and Balmoral Sensation: Another pair based outside of Europe, this New Zealand pair proved they aren’t just a regional wonder by making the trek to Badminton this spring and placing an emphatic fifth. With a flawless cross country record over the past 18 months, Balmoral Sensation is always within 30 seconds and more often within 15 seconds of the optimum time.
Ride Time: 12:14 p.m. EST
Mark Todd (NZL) and Leonidas II: The indomitable Mark Todd, back for another chance at Olympic glory, is as consistent as they come — normally. Mark and Leonidas had an entirely clean record at the three- and four-star levels through the Olympic qualifying period right up until their last prep event at Barbury Castle, where they shockingly had a stop and struggled in the stadium as well. Don’t expect that mistake to happen again. Although they’ve only made time in two of their seven clean runs, they are always within 30 seconds of the optimum rime.
Ride Time: 10:48 a.m. EST
Karim Florent Laghouag (FRA) and Entebbe de Hus: The only flaw in this horse’s record over the Olympic qualifying period came at the European Championship last fall, which Karim then redeemed by posting a fast and clear round over Pierre Michelet’s course at Pau. Although lightly competed this spring, this pair is generally within 10 seconds of the optimum time.
Ride Time: 10:17 a.m. EST
Tim Lips (NED) and Bayro: This experienced pair have twice tackled Pierre Michelet’s Fontainebleau CIC3* course in the past two years, posting clear but slow rounds. In their six other runs, they posted five clear rounds within 10 seconds of the optimum time, only stumbling slightly at Aachen last summer. Expect a swift round from Bayro.
Ride Time: 10:44 a.m. EST
Lauren Kieffer (USA) and Veronica: Although they haven’t made time in the past two years, their competition record is extremely competitive, running often within 10 seconds of the optimum time and always within 30 seconds. These two have the potential to move way up the standings after the second phase, and their experience over Pierre Michelet’s course at Pau in 2014 will serve them well.
Ride Time: 12:27 p.m. EST
Padraig McCarthy (IRL) and Simon Porloe: Possibly the most unique combination in the entire competition, Padraig McCarthy has yet to run a four-star but has become an absolute star for Ireland since he started eventing in 2013, while his mount Simon Porloe has extensive four-star experience under Padraig’s wife Lucy Weigersma.
These two have been almost perfect together in the past 18 months, with only an unfortunate rider fall at the European Championships marring their record. Although they have posted double clears early on in 2015, they’ve been slower as of late, generally finishing within 15 seconds of the optimum time.
Ride Time: 9:09 a.m. E.S.T
Phillip Dutton (USA) and Mighty Nice: Although this pair has made the optimum time once in their six runs in the past 18 months, they more closely trend to 25 seconds or less over the optimum. Extremely strong across the country, Phillip Dutton and Mighty Nice haven’t had a blip on their record since the spring of 2013. A solid finish from this pair could move them well up the leaderboard this week.
Ride Time: 1:44 p.m. EST